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The short answer is everyone. The long answer is anyone who is cognitively and somatically ready based on the assessment that’s done in session. Another factor that indicates a client may benefit from EMDR is that they are continually returning to the same issue. Maybe it’s been months or years of processing the same core issue, but in present moments, they continually become flooded or overwhelmed and struggle to move through it.
sounds like me
Have you ever realized that you weren’t really feeling your body (ex: feeling detached or numb)? Or maybe you’ve heard the phrase “where in your body do you feel that?” and had no idea what they were discussing.
Our mind and body are inherently connected. This is why babies cry and ball up their little fists and their faces scrunch up when hungry or upset. They are beautifully connected to their bodies and allow their bodies to help them communicate. If their needs are tended to, they relax, but if they aren’t, they eventually give up and stop crying. This connection doesn’t end after infancy. Suppose we are allowed to express and process our emotions. In that case, we maintain this connection well throughout our lifespan and can use our emotions to help inform us about who we are and how we are feeling, which allows us to live deeply authentic and fulfilling lives.
Because of this mind-body connection, treating developmental trauma (any trauma that has occurred with a caregiver before age 18 on multiple occasions) demands a top-down and bottom-up approach. This means that we should be unlearning what is healthy vs. not healthy, tending to our nervous system and allowing it to settle. Often, even if your mind knows you are no longer in danger and are in a new situation, your nervous system doesn’t know. This results in continually feeling anxious or nervous all the time.
The specific type of EMDR I utilize in my practice, developed and taught by the Personal Transformation Institute, takes a somatic (body-based) and attachment lens approach uniquely suited for developmental trauma. This means that instead of focusing on one memory, this approach allows us to delve deeper into where the core issue lies and honor the body.
EMDR is for severe trauma. It can be used to work through anxiety, OCD, depression, and other maladaptive behaviors. These behaviors started somewhere, and the belief is that if we return to where they started, they can be changed through reprocessing. It does not have to be a PTSD situation.
EMDR is a “quick fix.” I hear this one a lot. “Let’s do EMDR so I can get it over with.” You must be ready, somatically and cognitively, to make good use of the EMDR process. My clients know that while we may begin building resources and exploring goals, I will never proceed with reprocessing because it sounds like a “quick” or “easy” fix.
The reprocessing phase begins in the first session. Many clients are anxious that they will be forced to relive their trauma in the first session. This is in no way true. It is a multi-step process. There is a foundation that sets up a safe space by making a thorough history before moving on to reprocessing itself. The client feels comfortable with the therapy before it begins.
EMDR is hypnosis. The client is awake and alert during the entire session. The client has complete control of the entire session. Many safeguards are put in place so that, in the event someone does want to stop, they can do so at any time.
EMDR recovers repressed memories. The brain is doing only what it can and feels comfortable doing. This sounds strange, but our brain is a fantastic protective tool. EMDR only assists the brain in reprocessing unstable processed memories. If the brain has locked away memory, it has done so for a reason. This therapy will not unlock something that it is not ready for. Only time will do that.
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